WASHINGTON – A bipartisan group of 15 senators is seeking to create a commission tasked with formulating a “grand strategy” on China that avoids conflict with the world’s most populous nation while allowing the U.S. to pursue its interests.
Sens. Angus King, I-Maine, John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Tim Kaine, D-Va., said Friday they would introduce legislation to create a China Grand Strategy Commission, which would be given two years to develop a whole-of-government approach guiding Washington’s relationship with Beijing.
The senators and their 12 co-sponsors – most of whom sit on the Armed Services Committee – hope to file the bill as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, which the Senate is expected to begin debating in October.
“It would harness the smartest public and private sector minds to study and evaluate on how our nations interact – striking the balance between avoiding conflict and fully pursuing our national interest,” King said in a statement. “Most vitally, this commission isn’t putting a report on a shelf to collect dust; it will make actionable recommendations to develop a grand strategy across the entire government.”
The proposed commission would mirror the two-year Cyberspace Solarium Commission, established in the 2019 NDAA. King served as co-chair of that panel, which put forward 80 recommendations on improving U.S. cybersecurity. The Maine senator has said that 85% of those recommendations have been fully or partially implemented.
Both commissions are molded after former president Dwight Eisenhower’s Project Solarium, which developed a U.S. grand strategy vis-à-vis the Soviet Union.
Like the cyberspace commission, the China commissioners would include lawmakers, executive branch officials and private sector experts. The proposed China commission would consist of 18 members” two co-chairs agreed upon by Congress and the president and drawn from commissioners comprised of two senators, two House members, six executive branch officials and eight individuals from the private sector.
A summary of the legislation from King’s office says that the commission would develop “a holistic approach” across the federal government while “defining specific steps necessary to build a stable international order that accounts for the People’s Republic of China participation in that order.” It would be tasked with developing “actionable recommendations” aimed at protecting and strengthening U.S. national security interests.
House China Task Force
Republicans this month vowed to establish a select committee on China if they win the House in November’s midterm elections. House Republicans already established their own China Task Force in 2020, which Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Democrats declined to join after accusing former president Donald Trump of scapegoating Beijing for his mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the House’s China Task Force remains partisan, it has advanced proposals with bipartisan support among its hundreds of recommendations. These include the $52 billion in semiconductor subsidies and tax incentives that Congress passed in July to encourage manufacturers to develop chips in the U.S. instead of China and other Asian countries as part of a broader effort to shore up the U.S. defense industrial base.
Congress also mandated in 2000 the creation of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, which is tasked with submitting an extensive annual report on the national security implications of the economic and trade ties between Washington and Beijing.
Bryant Harris is the Congress reporter for Defense News. He has covered U.S. foreign policy, national security, international affairs and politics in Washington since 2014. He has also written for Foreign Policy, Al-Monitor, Al Jazeera English and IPS News.